EAGLE-EYED that he has always been, Tim Cone saw something new in San Miguel Beer (SMB). And it’s a positive microscopic find for SMB that bordered on the Beermen being reborn with genes never seen before.
It’s this: Without June Mar Fajardo, San Miguel Beer has transformed from freeze to fast. Meaning, the Beermen have metamorphosed overnight into a faster force than when Fajardo was around.
As a result, the team has quickly produced wonders in the form of three murderous wins in a row against NLEX (126-106), Rain or Shine (129-116) and Converge (121-105) for a twice-to-beat bonus in finishing No. 2 in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors Cup eliminations.
This happened while Fajardo was in sick bay after suffering a knee injury in SMB’s ill-fated foray in the East Asia Super League tournament in Japan only a while back.
As we all know, Fajardo has been SMB’s perennial pillar, having powered his team to 9-of-10 title runs and, in the process, crowning himself a six-time Most Valuable Player awardee—a record. Only Ramon Fernandez and Alvin Patrimonio are close by with four MVP trophies apiece.
Cone, the winningest PBA coach in the 47-year-old league with 25 crowns across his name, said he noticed that minus Fajardo, the Beermen have unlocked a high level of play anchored on Formula One swiftness.
“They (Beermen) now play a little quicker, a little bit more up and down,” Ginebra coach Cone told the Inquirer’s Denison Rey A. Dalupang. “They have been able to overcome June Mar’s absence with flying colors.”
A very apt observation, indeed.
For, with the 6-foot-10 June Mar around, San Miguel’s executions had been practically centered on him. And, to be honest, they produced results, mainly, of course, through Fajardo’s sheer height. With his height as might, June Mar’s slow-foot moves in the paint got offset more often than not.
But in the transition from Fajardo’s snail-slow pace to CJ Perez’s Ferrari-speed assaults, will that translate into outright advantage for SMB in the much-awaited San Miguel-Ginebra best-of-five semifinal clash that begins either on Friday on Sunday?
“CJ is playing MVP basketball,” Cone said. “Nobody’s been able to stop him from getting to the basket. He’s been hitting threes, too.”
Knowing Cone, he is now busy sharpening his blades to cut down Perez to size, especially now that the Pangasinan pride has virtually become SMB’s new go-to-guy.
Can SMB coach Jorge Gallent hold the fort against a coach as formidable as Cone? Blink not, fellas.
THAT’S IT Miguel Tabuena deserves praise for winning The DGC Open in New Delhi on Sunday, shooting a spotless seven-under-par 65 to prevail by one shot after being down six strokes going into the final round. He buried four birdies in his final nine holes in capturing his third Asian Tour crown. Cheers Migs!